The cowardly ‘invincibility’ of the Israeli Defense Forces
Demolishing a 14-story building in Gaza housing. | Via Palestinian media

Throughout the region, we are often told, there is fear and trembling at the might of the Israeli army, trained and supplied with advanced weaponry by the U.S. and aided by its mastery of technology. Furthering its superiority is the equally feared Israeli intelligence service, The Mossad.

Early triumphs in capturing part of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt as well as the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War, along with the Entebbe rescue mission in Uganda of hijacked passengers and the bombing of Iraq and Lebanon established and then cemented this reputation.

Along the way there have been numerous accusations of war crimes, but these have generally been suppressed because in war, much like in sports, winning is everything and how victory is achieved, over who, and why is often secondary to the victory itself.

However, that reputation is now turning and in danger of being shattered completely. The turn began with Hezbollah driving the Israeli Defense Forces from Lebanon in the 2006 conflict, continued with the Gazan attack on Israel on Oct. 7 last year, and persists now because, so far, Palestinian fighters, through a series of underground tunnels, have evaded capture and death and continue to propose a negotiated settlement to the conflict—despite Israel’s scorched earth policy above ground.

The “war” then has mainly been waged not against a competing army, which is often nowhere to be found, but against civilians, with more than half of the nearly 30,000 dead being women and children.

Along the way, the vaunted IDF has proven itself to be a killing machine that shows no mercy. Besides nearly indiscriminate targeting of civilians (forbidden in the Geneva Convention which Israel is a signatory of), there are documented instances of the IDF killing Palestinian forces waving a white flag and asking to surrender, bombing refugee camps from the air, using children as human shields to clear buildings in the Gaza Strip, torturing prisoners and then claiming information produced by this torture is accurate, deliberately killing journalists attempting to report on the nature of the violence, as well as bombing hospitals and killing doctors—in one case targeting a retired doctor’s home where refugees had fled for treatment.

Hannibal poisoning himself rather than be taken hostage.

In addition, a doctrine shrouded in secrecy called “The Hannibal Directive,” named after the conqueror who took poison rather than be captured by the Romans, and supposedly no longer in practice, allows for the killing of IDF troops rather than allowing them to be taken and held as hostages. Is the directive now applied to civilians as well? And was it used on Oct. 7 in the Hamas attack, where it has been reported in Israeli media that Israeli tanks assaulted and helicopters bombed indiscriminately their own base and Israeli homes resulting in some number of casualties?

These questions have yet to be answered in full, but what is known in terms of the bloodthirsty assault following the attack is that IDF soldiers killed three escaped Israeli hostages waving a white flag as they attempted to seek help.

When actually engaged in armed conflict, the IDF record is less than overwhelming. Multiple soldiers have been killed. In January, the Israeli government even had to withdraw a battalion from Gaza for rest and recuperation. The IDF is a conscript army, and many of its members have been called back into active service after they had done their tour of duty and were contemplating a life of ease in Israel’s still-thriving start-up digital industry, a leader in surveillance technology often pioneered by using Palestinians as guinea pigs to test and implement this spyware.

There are also on the internet visual traces of how the hatred and devaluing of Palestinians forms a core part of the IDF ethos. There is a heart-shattering video of one soldier who is about to blow up a building in a Gaza neighborhood, grinning and sending a selfie of him pushing the plug as we then witness the building exploding in the distance. Elsewhere, a soldier dedicates blowing up another building to his daughter on her second birthday.

Indeed, the war is not just a war of competing armies but rather one where one culture is attempting to obliterate another, with the IDF not only raiding hospitals and in some cases shooting surgeons, with the excuse, often never proven, that there are Hamas tunnels underneath, but also blowing up of the universities there is an attempt to destroy any avenue of advancement for future generations. The genocide is both physical and cultural.

So, the IDF: Pretty good at killing women, children, old men, doctors, surrendering prisoners, and their own hostages. Not so great at actual armed combat.

The combined might of the army, navy, and air force in a last “mission” is now poised to essentially line up against a wall and mow down the over 1.4 million largely defenseless Palestinians that have fled to what was promised to be the safe haven of Rafah. Will this, not band of brothers but, pack of cowards be allowed to continue their mass civilian slaughter, backed by the U.S., which refuses to halt the carnage?

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, the views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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Dennis Broe
Dennis Broe

Dennis Broe, a film, television and art critic, is also the author of the Harry Palmer LA Mysteries, the latest volume of which, The House That Buff Built, is about the real estate industry, dispossession, and appropriation in the shaping of “modern” Los Angeles.